Scottish moorland

SLE responds to 'incorrect muirburn comment'

Press Release

Responding to comments made by RSPB Scotland today (1 October 2021) in The Herald article Climate targets ‘at risk of going up in smoke’ over moor burns, a spokesperson for Scottish Land & Estates said:

“It is totally incorrect to associate out of control wildfires with muirburn carried out by land managers. The huge summer wildfires we have seen in recent years in Scotland have been started accidentally by members of the public. Muirburn is a vital land management practice which burns only the upper layer of vegetation and does not affect the underlying peat. It plays a crucial role in the prevention of wildfire for two reasons – firstly by creating regular fire breaks on moorland and secondly by reducing the fuel load available to burn in a fire. That is why the Scottish Fire Service endorses muirburn as a tool to mitigate the spread of wildfires. Many countries around the world conduct controlled burning, funded by the taxpayer, on heathland and in forests precisely to prevent wildfires and thereby limit CO2 emissions.

“The RSPB will be aware that work has already started to implement the recommendations of the Werrity Review commissioned by the Scottish Government – this work is being led by the Moorland Forum.  Land managers in the Scottish uplands are at the forefront of ensuring that our peatlands are kept in good condition and able to keep carbon locked in the ground.

“By contrast, lowland peat is intensively cultivated for farming, as well as peat extraction for horticultural compost, and this is responsible for the vast majority of emissions from peatland. Conservation work on grouse moors plays a huge part in ensuring the peatlands maintain their function as carbon sinks. No other land use would offer the same benefits.”